Allah, Thor, Posseidon and Zeus.
May 1, 2010
Why choose the God of the Bible over Zeus, or Thor, the great Juju at the bottom of the sea, or any other pagan god? Since there’s “no good reason” to pick Yahweh over any other god, I’m told, we should simply dismiss the idea of gods altogether.
As Stephen Roberts says:
I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
But this argument doesn’t make sense. Even if there was no good reason to choose God of the Bible over any other, this isn’t a good argument for atheism. Let me explain. Atheism says we should dismiss all gods. But even if I didn’t know which one of several options is true, that doesn’t mean I should dismiss them all. Just because someone don’t know what the hundredth digit of π is, does not mean that we should dismiss the fact there is one. There is a hundredth digit of π. Not knowing which one it is, is not a reason for dismissing them all. It is a reason for searching for the right one.
All conceptions of God are not the same. They’re fundamentally (no pun intended) different. One of the most obvious chasms is the canyon between world’s monotheistic religions – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – on on one side and pagan belief systems on the other. Pagan beliefs have their gods planted firmly in nature, as if you could look down a microscope and see him. Monotheistic beliefs about God are much more awe inspiring. They don’t think God can be discovered in nature, but instead view him as the author, creator and sustainer of it all.
The pagan view makes no sense to me. If you take a piece of metal and bang it one way it becomes a “god”; bang it another way it becomes a pot or a pan. Personally I cannot see how it can ever be more than a piece of metal, not a “god”. This takes many forms, from worshipping statues or the earth, the moon or the sun, right the way up to pantheism (which Dawkins describes as sexed up atheism). I have much the same problem with all of them: I can’t see how the universe could possibly create itself. A pot or a pan did not create the universe. It can’t even move itself. It’s totally clear to me these things are not God.
Jeremiah put it like this:
3 They cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”
However, the most important reason I have for rejecting other gods is another thing that an atheist cannot claim to share: I find Jesus Christ compelling. It is how we respond to Jesus Christ which sets us apart. The main reason I am not a pagan, a Muslim, an atheist or a Jew is because of what I think of this man, Jesus. I am not an atheist with respect to belief in Allah or Zeus, I am a Christian. Unlike an atheist who tries to tear down other people’s beliefs, and ridicules everyone, I can offer positive, uplifting reasons for what I believe – and I hope, do that with gentleness and respect.
So I guess I have reasons for rejecting Stephen Roberts claim: Different conceptions of God are not equal. While some conceptions of God make no sense at all, others make a lot. Just because we reject the illogical picture of God, and keep a logical one doesn’t make us atheists. Finally, unlike atheists, Christians can offer positive, respectful reasons for what we believe, which isn’t solely based on disrespect and ridicule of those we don’t agree with.
As always comments are welcome and criticism is encouraged. Thanks for reading!